Not all affairs are about sneaking around or getting physical like TV soaps and dramas depict. In fact, studies show emotional affairs actually inflict as much or more hurt and suffering than a physical one. Many attribute the elaborateness in concealing such deep romantic attachments as a major point of anguish.
The Journal of Research in Personality reports roughly 30 to 60 percent of all married individuals in the United States will engage in infidelity at some point during their relationship.
Typically emerging from friendships, emotional affairs, or "affairs of the heart," become full-fledged relationships in the shadows of your real one. Through time spent constructing a meaningful connection that isn't sexual, emotional affairs create a devastating impact — one researchers suggest signifies the cheater has mentally checked out of their current relationship. By covertly continuing to nurture feelings through the guise of friendship and engaging in feelings intended for your partner, emotional affairs can become the ultimate betrayal, even leading to divorce.
They say comparison is the thief of joy, and that couldn't be more true in relationships. When emotionally invested in someone other than your partner, you begin to draw comparisons. Wishing they were was more like your friend, you highlight your partner's flaws and amass resentment toward them. While researchers cite various personal reasons we make comparisons, many report it's a battle between self-esteem, uncertainty, or subconsciously pursuing other avenues linked to our unhappiness.
If you flirt with a friend, contact them outside "friend hours" and test the waters with humorous innuendo or talk of sex just to gauge their positive reaction — prepare to see adverse effects in your current relationship. Not only does intimacy decrease at home, so does attraction. Moreover, if you sense sexual tension between you and your friend, they pop into sexual fantasies, or they easily arouse you, take a step back to ask yourself why. Affairs don't often start in the bedroom — they start in the mind.
If you're pretending to your spouse that the friend in question is not important, they're insignificant and you never casually bring them up in discussions, chances are you're in denial within your own heart. Downplaying how much you like your friend to others is a flashing neon sign that covers up something you already know about the dynamic and its intended direction.
If you feel the need to intentionally keep secrets from your partner — hiding texts, emails or voicemails — think about what you're doing. We all know your partner shouldn't be googling your name or checking your voicemails in the first place because that indicates a deeper problem in your current relationship. But if you spend a lot of time hiding things from your partner, you're illustrating subconsciously a protective, caring nature towards your friend, while being sneaky and cautious in looking out for yourself-- a big NO-NO.
If you find yourself sharing intimate details or secrets about yourself to someone other than your partner, bear in mind danger is imminent. The more you share with someone you're not committed to, the closer you become — it's human nature. Effortless communication not only creates an opening where this friend can fill voids, but develops foundations of affectionate and strong relationships. Researchers suggest this type of subconscious disclosure is more a means of breaking away from an existing relationship with hopes your unmet needs are met by your friend.
Planning for the Future
It's okay to talk about the future with friends and coworkers, but if it involves talk of goals and dreams that assume romance and a life that isn't viable together, stop and rethink. Planning and romanticizing about a new or alternate life with this other person, even jokingly, can be incredibly damaging. Not only are you hurting your partner, but you're also misleading a friend who probably truly cares about you.